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J Comp Neurol. 1984 Apr 10;224(3):407-14.

Development of the transient ipsilateral retinotectal projection in the chick embryo: a numerical fluorescence-microscopic analysis.


The ipsilateral retinotectal projection in the developing chick was examined by using rhodamine-B-isothiocyanate (RITC) as an anterograde and retrograde vital marker for the retinal ganglion cells and their axons. Staining of the entire retina following intravitreal RITC injection between incubation days 3 and 16 revealed a small number of anterogradely labeled fibers in the optic tract and the anterior half of the optic tectum ipsilateral to the injection site. The total number of ipsilaterally projecting fibers was estimated to be about 2,000 on developmental day 9. The ipsilateral projection totally disappeared after day 15. The arrangement of fibers within the ipsilateral projection was examined by local anterograde RITC staining of localized retinal regions between days 9 and 10. The projection was retinotopically organized along the dorsoventral axis such that fibers of dorsal retinal origin projected on the ventral tectal half, whereas fibers of ventral retinal origin projected on the dorsal tectal half. The localization of ipsilaterally projecting ganglion cell bodies was examined by retrograde RITC staining during days 9 and 15. Ganglion cells of all four quadrants of the central retina contributed to the production of the ipsilateral projection. The ipsilaterally growing retinotectal fibers did not represent collaterals of contralaterally projecting retinotectal axons. We assume that the tendency of early growing retinotectal axons to grow straight, as well as the ability of axonal growth cones to "sample" the environment, lead to a crossing of axons to the contralateral side. Ipsilateral projections would therefore represent "pathfinding errors." Explanations for the elimination of the ipsilateral retinotectal projection are discussed.

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